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Washington County, Ohio
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History of Belpre, Washington Co., Ohio
By C. E. Dickinson, D. D.
Formerly Pastor of Congregational Church
Author of the History of First Congregational Church
Marietta, Ohio
Published for the Author by
Globe Printing & Binding Company
Parkersburg, West Virginia


* * *

     WE wish we might give us an introduction to  the history of Belpre the story of an important and interesting race of men who occupied this region at an unknown period in the past, but left no record of themselves except the mounds of earth which they erected.  Marietta was an important center of these monuments where the pioneers found the elevated squares, the great mound, and the Covert Way.  The latter was destroyed many years ago, the others are still visible.  There were several small mounds in Belpre at the time of the settlement.  Many of these have been leveled through cultivation of the soil, a few are still visible.  The one which is most complete is situated on the ridge in the east part of Rockland on land now owned by Jesse Pride, Esq.
     This Mound was evidently conical though now only a few feet high.  This is surrounded by a depression or ditch now easily distinguishable and was doubtless several feet in depth.  This is encircled by a parapet with a diameter of about one hundred feet.  Like the much larger mound at Marietta, it is laid out with mathematical precision.  This is the only one in Belpre with the ditch and parapet.  Another mound much larger than this stood in the middle settlement and partly in the street.  In 1874 the owner of the farm at that time, Mr. Joseph Farson, determined to examine and remove this mound which was then fourteen feet high and about one hundred feet in circumference at the base.
     In Williams History of Washington County, we have a description of the contents of this mound as follows.
     “After digging down a short distance the first skeleton was discovered.  It was in a fair state of preservation, in fact so sound that doubts at once arose as to its antiquity.  A closer examination of the skull indicated that it was that of an Indian and a bullet hole in the forehead just above the eye at once suggested the probability that the death and burial took place less than a century ago, although there is no history or even a tradition concerning

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such death and burial.  Toward the center of the mound a skeleton was found which upon being exposed to the air, at once proved its great age by crumbling to dust.  As the work progressed there were found at different depths, eight more skeletons, irregularly arranged.  Exposed to the air these bones were soon reduced to their original elements.  With each skeleton was found a stone pipe, beads, buttons, and balls of mussel shells, and an occasional collection of arrow heads.  A remarkable harpoon with a bone bearded point, was among the relics found.  With one skeleton was a pair of horns.  This suggested that the builder of the mound believed in a post mortem combat with an evil one, and the weapons were selected with reference to the homeopathic principle ‘Similm Similibus curantur.’  One of the horns is artificial and was carved from a bone of some animal the outside only being finished.  With this hastily made counterfeit was a real horn over six inches in length. In the center and a little below the base of the mound were found remains of a skeleton mingled with burned charcoal and calcinized bones.  It was evident that the body had been cremated, the lower extremities evidently had not been subjected to the intensity of the flame and there is evidence that the body, prior to cremation had been placed in a sitting posture so that the head and trunk were speedily consumed, leaving the rest of the body unburned.  In various parts of the mound twenty-two arrow heads were found from three to five inches in length, numerous stone axes, pipes and harpoons; nine hollow cylindrical tubes eight of which were found together away from the skeletons; the ninth with the remains of the burned skeleton, and very much smaller than the others.  These tubes were made of soapstone and the first mentioned were about one foot in length.  The maker of these tubes was thoroughly acquainted with the art of glazing as their polished surfaces attest.  The entire mound when taken away furnished two thousand cubic yards of earth.”  From this description it is evident that at least this particular mound was a burial place and the same was probably true of others.  The large mounds to honor powerful chiefs.  In this respect these pyramids of earth are analagous to the granite pyramids of Egypt.  On this ac-
May it not be possible that this  was the skeleton of either Captain Zebulon, King or Benoni Hulburt who were early killed by bullets and the localities of their burial are unknown.

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count some scholars have found evidence that the mound builders came to this continent from Egypt.  It is however not altogether improbable that these mound builders may have had an intuitive inspiration to honor their dead by a pyramid without any suggestion from Egypt.
     These silent monuments reveal very little to us beyond the fact that this anti-historic race were neither man-like apes nor ape-like men but human beings in some ways at least superior to the Indians who immediately preceded the settlement by white people.  We will commence our narrative with the first connection of this valley with Europeans.  The French commenced settlements in Canada in 1603 taking possession of the country by the right of discovery.  During the following century and a half they traveled inland along the chain of great lakes to the Mississippi valley, discovered the great river and sailed down that river to the Gulf of Mexico.  They laid claim by this right of discovery to the whole valley, though outside of Canada they established only a few posts for trading with the natives.  In 1749 they took formal possession of the Ohio valley.  This they did by erecting wooden crosses and burying leaden plates at the mouths of the principal tributaries.  An expedition started from Lake Erie and passed down the Allegheny and Ohio rivers under the leadership of Captain Celeron.  One of the plates buried at the mouth of the Muskingum was found by a company of boys in 1798.  These boys supposed the principal use for lead was to make bullets and had used a part of the plate for that purpose when they were discovered and the remainder of the plate was preserved.  A similar plate was found at the mouth of the Kanawha in 1845. The following is a translation of the inscription on this plate and is probably similar to that on all the plates:  “In the year 1749, in the reign of Louis XV, of France, M. Celeron, commandant of a detachment sent by the Marquis De La Galessoneire, Captain General of New France, in order to re-establish tranquility among some villages of savages in these parts, and buried this plate at the mouth of the river Chi-no-da-e-the, (Kenawha) on the 18 August near the Ohio, and of all lands of both sides to the source of such rivers as have enjoyed, or ought to have enjoyed, the preceding named King of France and they have maintained themselves by force of arms and by

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treaties especially by those of Resabach, Ulback and Auxle-Chapelle.”
     By the treaty of Paris in 1763 the title of all the Mississippi Valley east of that river and so including all the valley of the Ohio was transferred to Great Britain.
     The people of Virginia soon became interested in the fertile lands in this valley and the Ohio Land Company was formed to survey and dispose of these lands.  The Revolutionary war interfered with the work of this company but meanwhile George Washington made a trip down the valley and became owner of some of the best land.  Mrs. Laura Curtis Preston, in her excellent history of Newbury, describes this journey as follows:
     “George Washington made a journey down the Ohio river in 1770.  The following is from his journal.  About six or seven miles below the mouth of Little Canawha, we came to a small creek on the west side which the Indians called the Little Hockhocking. * * * the lands below the Little Canawha appear broken and indifferent but opposite to the Little Hockhocking there is a bottom of exceeding good land.  The lower end of this bottom is opposite to a small island of which I dare say little is to be seen when the river is high.  (The land referred to is now called Newbury Bar.)  On his return journey they camped opposite the Little Hockhocking which may be distinguished by a large stone just at its mouth (Ohio Arch and History Quarterly Oct. 1908.)  That stone still remains, just as it was when Washington saw it, firmly imbedded in the banks of the stream.  Washington was induced to purchase this “bottom of good land” now called Washingtons Bottom in West Virginia, and would have purchased the bottom land opposite, of which he speaks in his journal, had this land not been on the Indian side of the river.”
     After the public lands, which were originally claimed by the states, had been transfered to the General Government, it was a policy of Congress to keep the lands vacant until they had been surveyed and provisions made for their sale.
     In 1785, two years before the Ohio Company purchased this land, Gen. Richard Butler was sent down the Ohio river for the purpose of warning any squatters he might find to vacate their claims.  He says in his journal. “Oct.

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8.  Found settlers on the head of the first island below the Little Hbckhocking and also on the Ohio shore further down the river.”  “To the people on the island who seemed to be very reasonable people and the women appeared clean and neatly dressed, he sent some proclamations warning them off the island but sterner measures were resorted to in the case of the settlers below.  (Craigs olden times 1847.)  Gen. Butler also refers to the large stone at the mouth of the Little Hockhocking.  The island mentioned was doubtless Mustapha.”
     The army officers who settled in Marietta and Belpre had very high esteem for the French, who had aided us in the dark days of the Revolution both with money and men and without this aid we might have failed to secure our independence.  This esteem is preserved in the names given to these places.  The principal city in the settlement was honored with the name of the beautiful Queen Mane Antionette shortened to Marietta, and the first out station was Belle prairie (beautiful meadow) contracted to Belpre.


     this township was first authorized by the following action of the Court of Quarter Sessions in 1790.  "Resolved that townships number one (1) and two (2) in the tenth (10) range and number one (1) in the ninth (9) range be and they are hereby incorporated and included in one township by the name of Belpre."  As thus constituted this township, was bounded on the north by territory in Warren, Barlow and Fairfield townships.  On the east and south by the Ohio river and on the west by what is now Athens County, Decatur and a fraction of Fairfield townships.  Williams History of Washington County states that "in 1797 the court of Quarter Sessions declared that all the territory in Ohio Company's purchase south of the townships of Waterford and Marietta and north of Gallipolis be known as Belpre township, this embraced parts of the present counties of Athens, Vinton and Ross, together with fractions of Hocking, Meigs, Jackson and Pike.”  This territory was divided and incorporated into counties and townships from time to time until in 1855, it included only the territory now embraced in Belpre and Dunham townships.  A territory somewhat irregular on account of

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its river boundary, but embracing only a little more land than a regular congressional township of six miles square. During that year petitions were presented to the County Commissioners from citizens of Warren and Belpre for the erection of a new township composed of territory embraced between the following boundaries, viz:  “commencing on the Ohio river three miles south of the north line of township one (1) range nine (9) and running west to the west line of range ten (10) and south of the north line of township two (2) range ten (10) and township one (1) range nine (9) except section thirty-six (36) of township two (2) range nine (9).  Parties were heard in favor and against said township and on examination of the petitions, it was found that a majority of householders residing within the boundaries of said change were in favor of the same, and it was resolved that the said territory as described above be considered a new township.  Ordered that the township now formed be called Dunham.”  By this action of the commissioners the township was virtually bisected, leaving but little more than half the territory of a township of six miles square.  The shape on the east and south conforms to the direction of the river so that there are nearly fourteen miles of river frontage.  The lands embraced within the two river terraces are among the most fertile and productive farming and gardening lands in the Ohio valley while the hills in the background are well adapted to pasturage and fruit raising.  The scenery in various parts of the town is somewhat monotonous although there are several high points from which quite extensive views of the surrounding country are obtained, and there are several romantic ravines among the hills.  One of these a little back of the village, on Congress Creek, has been known as “Low Gap.”  This has been a favorite resort for parties of young people and Mrs. Kate Browning Foutz a daughter of Belpre has honored it by the following poetic gem.

     “Low Gap, the place where fays and fairies dwell,
     Search far and wide, there is no sweeter dell.
     There dawns come later and twilight early falls,
     There silence reigns unbroken save the birds low calls.
     The hum of insects or drone of bees,
     The murmuring brook or rustling trees,

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     And where the interlacing branches meet
     Above some pool, pellucid, sweet,
     The flashing minnows sport and turn
     Beneath the mirrored greenness of the fern.”


     This brief description of Belpre, may help us to appreciate the early history as given in detail by Dr. S. P. Hildreth.
     The first eight chapters are a republication from Dr. Hildreth's “Pioneer History” and “Lives of Pioneers.”

† Dr. Hildreth
lived and practiced medicine several years in Belpre.



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